Israel and Germany had a very different summer of 2006, but both the war with Hezbollah and the Soccer World Cup triggered a baby boom:
• "What do you do when you're huddled up inside a bunker, hoping you won't get hit with a rocket?" asks Blake Hounshell in Foreign Policy and then reports about a 35 percent jump in the number of women entering their fifth, sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
• World Cup: "Curtain-Raiser or Foreplay? Germans Surprise Themselves, Again" writes DW World:
So it happened. The Germans let loose. Eventually, they didn't win the World Cup, but they decided to bare it all anyway. And have fun like there was no tomorrow. Everybody did it in his or her own way. Within 90 minutes of the first match Germany played, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, went from being the queen of lifeless frowning to the people's princess of boundless jubilation. The rest of the country, apparently, watched, cheered and then got busy in the sack. "More births nine months after such an event are surprising only at first sight," said Rolf Kilche, who is a head of a large birth clinic in Kassel. "The attitude to one's own body and the role of the hormones are often underestimated. If you're in a good mood, you are more likely to get pregnant." These days birth training courses in Germany are getting overbooked. Some hospitals are even planning to offer additional courses in March and April.
• Blackout Baby "Boom": The energy provider RWE gave 300 euros ($385) to all the parents who conceived during the Muensterland power outages in November 2005. Nice PR for an all too powerful energy provider. There is increasing European pressure to make power networks independent and separate the energy companies transmission and production businesses, a process known as ownership unbundling, to reduce the influence of these companies. A few more World Cups and blackouts and Germany's demographic problems are solved.
Weird headline? Yes, but why is the winner of the Super Bowl called "World Champion"? Anyway, enjoy the game! Slate Magazine has some fun:
According to my research, "football" is very popular among my fellow Americans. It sort of resembles chess, but with a lot more physical contact. Today is, like, the biggest day of the year for football enthusiasts.
The Economist wrote during the world cup: "America is perhaps the only country that greets the World Cup with an orgy of football-bashing." The Weekly Standard, Huffington Post and American Thinker took the World Cup as an opportunity to make condescending comments about European cultures and politics. I have not seen any such comments about American culture and politics in the German coverage of the Super Bowl. Davids Medienkritik found an article in Die Welt about the rise of African-American head coaches in the NFL. It is a positive article about the recent developments, but it has an awful and misleading headline "Super Bowl as a victory against Apartheid." Super Bowl enthusiasm in the German blogosphere: Statler & WaldorfBasic Thinking, Indiskretion Ehrensache, American Arena, Dirk Steins, Radioskala.
Endnote: Today, Germany competes in the Handball world cup final. Another one of those sports, which are quite unknown in the US, but the game is a bit faster and more goals are scored than in soccer, so it should be of more interest to Americans, who are used to high scores in their favorite games. Of course, handball is not as popular in Germany as football is, but one in eight Germans watched the semifinals...
DW World writes about the rise in Neo-Nazi attacks:
Between January and August, some 8,000 offenses perpetrated by right-wing radicals were reported to the BKA -- 20 percent more than the previous year and 50 percent more than in 2004. While the number of incidents is increasing, the degree of violence is also swelling. In 2006, 325 people had been injured by far-right violence by August, compared to 302 in 2005. The issue has been catapulted back into public consciousness after the success of the extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) in regional elections in September.
Moreover: "In the professional soccer stadiums, racism has gone underground but is on the rise in the local leagues and in eastern Germany, according to a recent study."
"A new exhibition in Dresden -- originally shown at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington -- looks at the pseudo-scientific foundations of racism.", writes Andres Curry in the English version of Spiegel Online. Andrew was a 2005-2006 Fulbright Journalism Fellow and is now a correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, which recently published his article Where WWII bombs once laid waste, a Dresden gem shines again.
October 3rd is German Unity Day. It has been often said that there would be less Anti-Americanism in Germany, if Germans would be more patriotic. Anti-Americanism has been described as:
inverted nationalism for people who think nationalism isn't cool. (think about it, what better way to believe in the superiority of your nation without being explicit about it?)
The American Enterprise Institute's James Q. Wilson writes in the American Spectator about "American Exceptionalism". Among other topics he points out:
While 71 percent of Americans say they are "very proud" to be in America, only 38 percent of the French and 21 percent of the Germans and the Japanese say they are proud to live in their countries. And Americans are much more committed to individualism than are people elsewhere. Only one-third of Americans, but two-thirds of Germans and Italians, think that success in life is determined by forces outside their own control. (...) Americans typically have a low opinion of our governing institutions, especially Congress, but an exceptionally high opinion of the constitutional system of which they are a part.
Many people from all over the world have praised the relaxed, joyful, healthy patriotism during the world cup. Some German newspapers called it
"party-otism." So... In order to reduce Anti-Americanism, let's promote some fun patriotism with the trailer of a documentary about the German national soccer team at the world cup this summer. Your browser should display a video to your right. If you don't have a Flash Player plug-in installed to play the trailer, you can download it from Macromedia or read about the movie at Deutschland. Ein Sommermaerchen. It is probably not a coincident that cinemas premiere this documentary on German Unity Day. American influence: Notice that Podolski even sleeps with one of Lance Armstrong's Live Strong yellow wristbands (first few seconds) and Neuville's Texas style Hook'em Horns salute in the shower. There are many more substantial US influences, like the American fitness trainers the head coach Juergen Klinsmann brought over from California. He also inspired and pushed his team with Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" (Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity / To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment / Would you capture it or just let it slip?).
Still, it's not easy being German... ;-) The guy in the second video is not afraid to out himself ;-) This MTV spot could be considered controversial. Of course, Germans are not really discriminated. There is a lot of real discrimination against many groups. That is a serious problem. Therefore, please, do not consider this spot as making fun of real discrimination. Just laugh about the German stereotypes, which are shown in a funny way.
According to a PEW Research Center poll from 2004, a larger share of Americans than Germans, French and others agrees with the statement "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior"; as shown in the right table from PEW. Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans are not condescending, but some press coverage gives this impression: Billions of people around the world and millions of Americans enjoy soccer, but several U.S. media outlets don't understand the fun of the game (that's okay and fine!) and turn their lack of understanding into condescension (that's not nice). The neoconservative Weekly Standard:
Soccer is the perfect game for the post-modern world. It's the quintessential expression of the nihilism that prevails in many cultures, which doubtlessly accounts for its wild popularity in Europe.
That's just a brief quote, read the entire piece. This could be satire, but it could also be serious. You never know with the Weekly Standard. More at The New Republic, Dingnan, World Cup Blog and Dialog International. (Perhaps Claire Berlinski is also just joking, when she said "Europeans are lazy, unwilling to fight for anything and willing to surrender to anyone; they are fascinated by decadence." However, her Euro-bashing isn't related to soccer, but to her new book "Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too", which is pretty popular at Amazon.com, Amazon.de.) The American Thinker explains why soccer is not as popular in the U.S. as in most parts of the world:
My theory is that Americans have neither the belief system nor the temperment for such a sisyphean sport as soccer. We are a society of doers, achievers, and builders. Our country is dynamic, constantly growing, and becoming ever bigger, richer, and stronger. (...) I think it reflects the static, crimped, and defeatest attitudes held by so many of the other peoples on earth.
INSTAPUNDIT, one of the first political blogs with an average of currently 130.000 readers every day, recommended a well-meaning post about Germany on June 21st, but unintentionally spread misinformation:
BAD NEWS FOR AHMADINEJAD AT THE WORLD CUP: "Did you ever think you'd see the same people waving Israeli flags and singing Deutschland über alles?" No, but I wouldn't want to get on their bad side...
Instapundit links to and quotes the Winds of Change blog, which quotes the British newspaper The Independent. This paper wrote in the second paragraph of its article about the opening match at the soccer World Cup Germany vs. Costa Rica:
When it came to the national anthem and its opening line "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", so often accompanied by uncertainty and shoe-gazing, much of the 65,000-strong crowd rose to their feet and joined in, as did the national team.
Combine the Super Bowl's hype, the rising cool factor of the NBA finals and the quaint charm of the World Series, and it still wouldn't come close to the World Cup's euphoric atmosphere. "They're putting on an incredible show for the World Cup," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said Friday, a day after the Americans were eliminated. "The way the tournament's been run and the games, everything, it's really becoming one of the great World Cups ever, and the German people have been really amazing. You can see that every day is just an amazing party throughout the country," Reyna added. "It's been really a lot of fun for all of us." Fans fill the streets laughing, singing, whistling and having an infectious good time. People wear their flags and colors with pride, and there's friendly banter between fans from opposing countries. Aside from a few minor incidents, there's been little of the feared hooligan violence so far. Restaurants are hopping, shops are bustling and train stations are party central.
AP continues to quote many American soccer fans, who enjoy the party atmosphere and describe the differences to US sporting events. And the Chicago Sun Times writes about an American impromptu parade from an Irish pub in Nuremberg to the soccer stadium, where the U.S. then lost against Ghana:
The journey, led by a couple of drummers, will last more than two miles. Traffic stops. Germans pause along the sidewalks and take out their cell phones to snap photos. They salute the Americans, offering a thumbs-up or a smile. Those stuck in their cars while the Americans pass through have varying reactions. Some look frightened; others roll down their windows for handshakes and high-fives. The American fans are now a spectacle. The parade, which started with about 200 fans, reaches about one city block deep. And the Americans don't stop their singing when they enter the subway stations, continuing during the brief train ride to the stadium. (...) Earning one point in the World Cup is anything but impressive. But creating a home-field edge against the Italians and stopping traffic in a metropolitan city is quite a feat for Americans.
A delegation of 30 young soccer players participating in the World Cup Sports Initiative organized by the U.S. State Department will travel to Germany June 21-23 to attend the FIFA World Cup match between Ghana and the United States and engage in program activities in Nuremberg and Frankfurt (Main). The boys and girls, ages 13-18, represent the following 13 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Uganda, and Uzbekistan. U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes will join the young soccer players in Nuremberg to attend the Ghana-USA game on June 22.
The U.S. lost its last World Cup game against Ghana a few hours ago. The U.S. game against Italy ended in a draw, which has been a remarkable achievement. Before that game the Chicago Tribune wrote that one player of the US national soccer team made some stupid remarks that will not improve the US image:
Eddie Johnson says he sees similarities between his team and the soldiers he will be surrounded by when the United States stays in the Ramstein Air Base for Saturday's match against Italy in Kaiserslautern. "It's like us in the World Cup," the 22-year-old Johnson told reporters in Hamburg. "We're here for war. We came here to battle. We came here to represent our country. Whenever you put your jersey on and you look at your crest and the national anthem's going on, and you're playing against a different country, it's like you do or die, it's survival of the [fittest] over 90 minutes-plus."
Fortunately the German press -- which many consider biased against the U.S. -- did not use these unsportsmanlike and for the U.S. team untypical comments to reinforce Anti-American stereotypes, i.e. our media is not so bad. Unfortunately one Italian player apparently took those comments seriously and hit U.S. player Brian McBride and caused a "cascade of blood" to flow down his face. The Italian player was promptly set off by the referee. All other games have been much more fair and less violent. The obviously wrong image in the U.S. of soccer being a girlie sport is declining, man's soccer isincreasinglypopularintheU.S., and large numbers of Americans traveled to Germany. J of Germany Doesn't Suck took the photograph below and kindly allowed the Atlantic Review to use it.
There is a slight difference in the official English World Cup theme A Time to Make Friends and the German version Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden, which translates as "The World Is Visiting Friends", but both slogans turned out to be true. The World Cup is a peaceful, friendly mega party for millions of fans from around the world. There is much much less racism, violence, prostitution and sex trafficking than some Americans and others expected. Republican Congressman Christopher Smith's predictions turned out to be wrong. He should note that prostitutes complain about the lack of customers. Soccer fans are too busy celebrating. Let's hope that the next two weeks will be as successful as the first two and that we will continue to see more of the following joyful pictures, while not forgetting the refugees:Continue reading "State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image"